Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fun Outdoors, Playset Free

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


The girls are my parents' first grandchildren which means they have been lavished with all kinds of attention and presents since birth. Their shoe wardrobe at six months was more extensive than mine.

Let's not hold punches, they're spoiled every time my parents visit. I usually indulge my mom and dad, after all they have been waiting for this day for years. And honestly I would let them buy them buy the girls diamond tiaras if it meant a week of free babysitting.

But I finally drew the line at their latest scheme: an outdoor play set. Don't get me wrong, I have dreamed of having one for the kids too. Who wouldn't want their child to have their own wonderland in the backyard? But then I started really thinking about it.

Doesn't a play set take away some of the magic of the backyard? Isn't the backyard itself a wonderland? When I was a kid my most fun times were digging holes in piles of dirt and having picnics in the clubhouses I created. We just moved to a new home with a backyard that is ripe for those kind of adventures.

So this summer we plan to spend a lot of time outside in our new space. Yes there will be the turns at the water table and the trips in the Cozy Coupes. But there will also be lots of lying on quilts looking up the clouds, outside story times that involve piles of books, and much blowing of bubbles. Lots of just being.

And I think, or at least hope, that there will be lots of secret twin confidences and lots of giggling as they run off to explore. And when we start jonesing for a slide? Well it's lucky we live a block from two different parks.

As for my parents, they took it in stride though I am sure some other scheme is being cooked up as I write. I did hear whispers of a Disney trip even though the girls have only seen one of the "princess" movies. Oh well, as long as I get a child free meal out of it, I'm good.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. Right now we have a couple of play structures for Kieran - a small plastic climber (with a platform and small slide) and a swing. The climber has been central to all kinds of imaginative play - some days it is a spaceship, some days it is a pirate ship. Sometimes we stand and bounce balls back and forth forever (Kieran at my eye level standing in the climber), giggling when we bonk each other or when I have to chase one out in the yard. Then again - we play the same games with the brick square of my raised garden bed, so the fake plastic play structure was really unnecessary. If we ever do get a swingset, it will be one that has a fort/playhouse structure of some kind - I just like the creative play they can illicit. Then again, we are the opposite of you - we do not have a park within walking distance, and the parks within a 10 minute drive aren't necessarily designed for 2 yr olds. My opinion might change as Kieran gets older :)

  2. We have a small plastic slide/climber combo right now (the Little Tikes caste one) and the girls definitely enjoy it.

    Our ideal would have been a fort with a slide coming down but we couldn't find something simple enough. Or I would have loved to have had them get the girls a simple outdoor playhouse but it was the huge structure or nothing.

    That power struggle is a whole other post. :)

  3. I remember being in love with the creek that ran behind our house - I never wanted any kind of jungle gym as long as I was able to play outside in my creek.

    That being said, Sidney's not old enough to play outside alone and she doesn't quite get all the wonders of exploring the outdoors, so we have her a little swing/slide set. Nothing fancy, nothing big. Just enough to get her to want to go outside and play and spend Q-time together!

    I love this idea, though - of encouraging outdoor exploration and imagination!

  4. Another aspect: Isn't it lovely to share a playground with other kids? I find that the backyard ones tend to be for one family only (well, duh, but do you know what I mean?).

    When I was a kid, my friends and I were always all over the communal playground, making up stories together and judging each others' flips on the monkey bars like we were in the Olympics. Even now, Mikko's made some little "friends" at the playground near us!

  5. We do have a few outdoor toys, cozy coupes, water table, outdoor kitchen, and slide, that were either given to us or freecycled/trashpicked. I would like to make the playspace more imaginative and natural in the new house to encourage more exploration but we'll see how ambitious I get.

  6. Ok, I know I commented earlier yet it seems teh internetz ate my comment.

    No one has suggested yet that we get giant play sets. That might be because we don't currently have a backyard. I think I'm with you in that I'd prefer to keep things simple when/if we get a backyard.

  7. This is a really interesting perspective, I'm glad you wrote about it! I grew up with woods and a simple swingset. We naturally chose the woods more often. I think a nearby playground will be plenty for your kiddos - what wonderous adventures are in their futures!

  8. I learned this lesson from my boys; unfortunately AFTER I'd already spent too much time and money. They said they wanted a fort/club house. I built the biggest and best I could (month long process, it is quite grand really). Then one day they saw a little 4 foot by 4 foot cabin in the store and said, "that's what we wanted. we thought we could put it under the tree." Damn...

  9. I have a daycare but opted not to get an outdorr playset and I'm always surprised when parents ask me why not. I want to say "look at this yard!" Instead I say "I value the natural play of being outdoors and exploring and since we have so many neat things to see here the children have never once complained." And they haven't. I love seeing them dig for worms, play on the tree stumps, make fairy houses, play games with the leaves, dig in the dirt and gravel, and play make beleive in our "magical forest" (the name of our daycare).

  10. I love your post and completely agree. We are thinking a simple wooden cubby house for imaginative play but plan more trees, a big digging patch and a dry creekbed instead of slides and swings :)